Restorative Rituals

ancient_greeks_men_colouring_page_460_0For two thousand years, bloodletting was the most commonly performed medical procedure to supposedly cure various ills and keep the body “in balance.” Bloodletting eventually fell under the purview of  barbers whose barber poles still symbolize the white bandages, the red blood and the rod that patients gripped while being emptied of their excess fluid.  (May I just take a moment here tobarbers_pole230 mention how happy I am that those days are in the past? UGH!)

I will say though, that I am in the middle of a modern-day bloodletting of sorts also designed to bring balance back into my life. Of course this procedure doesn’t require a scalpel, just a bunch of GLAD garbage bags. You see, I am slowly, systematically, going through various rooms and closets getting rid of stuff I do not use or need.

declutterThis is seasonal therapy for me.  I just get to a certain point where I feel overwhelmed by my own belongings.  Books, clothes, souvenirs, greeting cards, you name it..every 5 months or so I am itching for more free space, more cleared surfaces, more empty shelves..I’m mentally and physically  allergic to my home-grown, ever-blooming excess.

Pamela Druckerman wrote an interesting piece in the NY Times recently examining our need to de-clutter. She refers to a best selling book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” In it, the author promises that you will discover your mission in life, along with more time and passion to pursue it, once your clutter is tamed.

Personally, I am not sure I buy into all of that, and frankly my goals are a lot less lofty. I simply get tired of seeing, moving, cleaning and saving things that don’t add something positive to my life. Pamela refers to a study of middle class families in Los Angeles that found that only one in four are able to keep their car in the garage due to clutter, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one constantly dealing with this issue.

Some things are very easy to get rid of, like an ill fitting dress that I’m sorry I ever bought. Other stuff is much more difficult to pack up, like some of my deceased sister’s knick knacks. I haven’t been able to part with any of them yet, but have at least allowed myself to finally ask..how many of those items do I need to keep– and why?

For me, de-cluttering is a critical, re-evaluative process; a restorative ritual that is reflective of my ever changing life and an important confirmation that I am the owner of all my stuff..

..it does not own me. donation

Going there…

eyes wide open

So I’m sipping my morning coffee,  listening to the news, gliding on my eye-liner,when I suddenly catch a glimpse of it; a wee little gelatinous blob on the white of my right eye. I close my eyelids and give them a quick rub. The blob is still there, in the exact same spot. I wet a Q-tip and try to wipe it away.  Again..no movement.

The mind is an amazing thing. I’m telling you that mine is equipped with solid rocket boosters that can take me from mild concern to full-on-freak-out in less than 2 seconds. One minute I’m trying to dislodge sleep in my eye, the next I’m pricing decorative eye patches on Amazon and wondering whether glass eyes (like dentures) need to be taken out at night.

I just “go there.”  I wish I didn’t, but I do. It’s as if I have to at least consider the worst case scenarios and almost make peace with them before I can relax. By the time I got to my eye doc yesterday I had prayed that the blob was nothing serious, accepted my possible fate, and thanked God for having had such a long run with two eyes. Seems like an awful lot of  mental groundwork, but this is how I process stuff.

The diagnosis was a tiny cyst, most likely caused by allergies, and my optometrist predicted it would resolve itself on its own.

So I still have both my eyeballs securely locked in place.. I wish I hadn’t explored all of the scary, nasty other potential outcomes, but the silver lining to all of that is a profound sense of gratitude for something I take for granted every day.

 

I can see…with both eyes.  Thank you Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dish Duty Diplomacy

STOCK SHOP, Dirty Dishes

I’ll admit it, I have always despised cleaning the kitchen. My daughters and I have rotating kitchen duty, so every third week it’s my job to clean up for 7 days straight- Monday through Sunday. Like I said, I loathe it when it’s my week..I think my girls feel the same when it’s their week too.

While our system has  worked reasonably well for the last 5 years or so, it is still fraught with politics, heated negotiations and plenty of strategizing. Let’s just take the dishwasher for example.. End of the week loading has become a tactical game with the ultimate goal being not to run that machine until  Sunday night. This way one can get out of emptying it one last time by pushing the cycle into Monday.  Of course the next person in line gets to start her duty week unloading pretty much every utensil, cup, plate and bowl that we own. Retaliation is to be expected and it’s  taken out on the person with duty the week after that. It’s like “paying it forward” – survivor style. Oh well, we all do it now, so at least no one is working more than anyone else.

Then there’s the left-over situation. Heaven forbid there are two noodles left in a pot, that lid goes right back on and the entire pot finds its way into the fridge so that, you know… someone can easily heat up and enjoy those two noodles for lunch the next day. Of course that’s one less pot to scrub for some lucky gal…again, a double bonus if it’s Sunday.

Additional problems to be overcome are created by birthdays, holidays or just having friends come over. Stacks of dishes that are considered beyond “reasonable and customary levels” are the subject of intense disputes. Along the same line, if you and your sleepover guests get the urge to bake brownies at 10pm, long after the kitchen has been officially cleaned by the designated cleaner, you are completely responsible for your own mess.

And if something big pops up (hot date, big game) and the dishes don’t get done one night, an additional dish-duty-day is automatically tacked on to your week. This amendment to the original agreement had to be added in response to bold and frequent violations.  The standard (my standard) had to be made clear with convincing consequences for not meeting them.  And yes, while it’s all a bit over-regulated, and no one loves it, the system still produces what it was designed to; a clean kitchen every night.

I’m pretty proud of how we’ve tackled this most hated job and after all these years of micro-managing its implementation, I feel pretty qualified to settle much larger dilemmas than whether or not certain pots qualify for overnight soaking. I really believe I am ready for bigger challenges.  I mean if I can handle Mr. Clean, then why not Mr. Putin? And if I can get a teenager to scrub the sink and take the trash outside, maybe I can get the Ayatollah in Iran to ‘scrub’ his nuclear program and take his centrifuges offline.

Yes, it’s time to refresh my resume and send it to John Kerry..

The world could use a little more order- “mommy style.”

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The Memory Tray

memory tray  My childhood was dotted with amazing birthday parties.  Pouffy dresses, cucumber sandwiches, homemade cakes and games.. oh my!  If I close my eyes I can still feel that itchy petticoat scratching the back of my legs. One of my favorite party games of all times was the memory game.  A tray would be filled with household items and lowered to the floor in the middle of a group of squirming kids. We’d have a certain amount of time to look at the tray and try to memorize everything we saw. The tray would then be pulled away and we’d have one minute to write down all the objects we remembered.  The child with the longest, and most accurate, list was the champion and received a prize. (Those were the days when we played games that produced actual winners and losers- I know, I know, it was brutal…)  Forget pin the tail, hide and seek or even duck-duck goose..the memory game was all I cared about, and even though I never won, I loved it anyway.

Have you noticed how many trays are for sale at all the department stores these days? Funny enough, there’s a decorating trend that features pretty trays filled with various personal objects. The purpose of these knick-knack trays is not to test your memory, but to simply bring back great ones.  Meaningful items are positioned and displayed..  postcards, opera glasses, books and shells..you just place on your tray those items that mean the most to you.

I have purposely tried to decorate my home in a way that hopefully stirs happy thoughts and triggers warm family memories. I have an old, empty bottle of wine from a wonderful trip with my husband, family photos, coffee mugs from all over, my kids’ art, pillows and wall hangings with words like LOVE and HAPPINESS printed on them.  Surprisingly, I don’t have a memory tray, but I intend on creating one soon. I already know what I’ll put on it…my dad’s sunglasses, a favorite book, an old, handmade porcelain plate..

I truly believe that every one of our senses can lift our spirits… smelling a certain scent, hearing a favorite song, eating a meal made from a beloved family recipe, snuggling in an old sweater, gazing at a tray full of pretty possessions.. So why not use all five of these avenues to enhance our well-being?

Creating happy thoughts, refreshing our minds with wonderful memories, filling our hearts with gratitude..what could be more worthwhile?tray

 

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

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Carpe Diem!

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I have a love-hate relationship with my i-phone, more specifically with its spell check feature. No matter what I’m typing into the thing, my spell check is out to correct me. I may know what I’m trying to say- but my phone acts like it knows what I’m thinking.The resulting texts have sometimes proven to be hysterically funny and nonsensical.

Once, my son and I were texting about some sad incident that had occurred. I ended my message with “carpe diem”…an exhortation to make the most of every moment, to live big.. to seize the day! But when I took a closer look at my message in the speech bubble, I realized it had been auto-corrected to read “carpet dime.”

I had to chuckle at the mistake, but truthfully I liked the way it sounded…”carpet dime.”

doomsday-clock

Lately it just seems as if the daily news is nothing more than wall to wall stories of tragedy upon tragedy. Natural, medical, mechanical, you name it..  Terror in the desert, terror in the sky, terror the office…it never seems to quit. Yesterday I even saw an article about how “scientists” had moved up the hand on the “doomsday clock”..(Did you even know there was an official doomsday clock? ) The press release stated “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.”

Well thanks for the update fellas and have a nice day!

How are we to handle the constant barrage of depressing and scary stories? My answer is a small act of rebellion- to accept the fact that the bad stuff happens, but to push back hard against the impulse to ruminate on all the negativity… to imagine all the details, to discuss it ad nauseam with anyone willing to listen. I figure I have a role to play in my tiny corner of the world, and while it may be small, I can still try to be a counterbalance to the chaos…to be positive, to be peaceful, to be relevant, to be grateful, to be faithful.and to seize this day!

Let’s face it, there simply are no guarantees in life. Languishing and obsessing over troubles (potential and actual- mine or someone else’s) is not the answer. As it says in Romans 12: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Live, laugh, love…. carpeor as my phone says- carpet dime!

 

(Visit the calm.com website I highlighted in “Check this out.” It really is great for frazzled nerves.)

 

Lipstick and Lies

Every so often I get the urge to buy myself a beautiful new lipstick, and after cleaning out my make-up drawer, I realized that my small collection had most likely passed its unwritten expiration dates by at least 3 years.  Just makeup_large_01thinking about the potential for cooties made me weak in the knees, so off to MACY’s I went..

The woman who works at the counter I visited was a friendly Italian; probably my age, with skin was as smooth as a silk napkin.  I told her I wanted to step out of my lipstick “box” and get something exciting and new. So the lady, let’s call her Sophia Loren, started to show me her wares. Everything (except red) was open to consideration. One by one, she’d pick out different shades, carefully disinfect them with her tissue soaked in alcohol, and apply the color to my lips…and each time, I’d look in the mirror and recoil at my reflection. Finally, after about 15 long, frustrating minutes, she pulled out an orangy-peachy hue that actually seemed to “fit.” “I can do this color!” I yelped as if I’d just won the lottery.  Down to the cash register I slid, retrieving my credit card to pay for this overpriced indulgence. Sophia had her back to me busily rummaging through one drawer…and then another…and then another, until she finally popped up, turned around, and flatly announced that the color I had chosen was discontinued.

Discontinued!? We stared at each other as if we had no idea what to do next. I sure as heck didn’t feel like starting all over looking for a different shade, and she sure as heck didn’t offer. “I guess I wasn’t meant to have a new lipstick today” I finally blurted out, to which Sophia matter-of-factly replied “I guess not!”  As I shoved my wallet back into my purse I looked up and offered some unsolicited, but obvious, advice. “Maybe you shouldn’t have samples on display if they are not available to purchase…” to which Ms. Loren responded, “oh, we have to keep them out there, if we didn’t, our displays would look bad.”

There’s not enough foundation in the world to cover the disbelief I’m sure flashed across my face. As I huffed out to my car it struck me that this had happened to me at other counters,  and not just at this store! I guess they all keep their displays padded with product they no longer carry just to maintain that well-balanced, perfect appearance.

As I drove away I thought of how we are sometimes just as guilty of padding our lives to make it seem as if all of our “lipsticks are in a row.” Whether it’s gushing on Facebook or preening in person, we can get caught up in creating appearances that bear little resemblance to what’s really going on ‘behind the counter.’  The end result can be a fragile facade built on little white lies and a distressingly large collection of superficial relationships. More importantly, this pretending precludes us from sharing our burdens with others who could offer genuine friendship and support.

Now I’m not advocating spilling all our personal woes to anyone with an ear to hear or a mouse to click…but while Sophia is required to maintain a showcase that clearly doesn’t represent what’s behind her closed drawers….we don’t have to.

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Paintbrushes and Padding…

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I have always had issues with bathing suits.  More accurately speaking, I have always had issues with my body … in a bathing suit.  It’s not that I’m overly plump, the problem is I’m  flat chested. My silhouette is a little like a paintbrush- no curves, straight up and down, plenty of hair on top. I remember lounging poolside once many years ago, and having my father tell me I looked like I needed an “elixir.”  I had to think long and hard, back to the last episode of  Bonanza,  to remember what an elixir was. (It’s a catch all liquid “medicine” of the snake oil variety.. usually in a dirty brown bottle.. for sickly looking cowboys.)

–Thanks dad.

No wonder why I always wore a cover-up.

Fast forward to my last, epic, public appearance in a bikini on a cruise in 2012. I went to Macy’s prior to the trip in search of a fabulous suit that I could strut my stuff (or in this case, strut my stuffing) in.  I chose a cute little crocheted number.  Of course the top needed a lot more padding, so off to Jo Ann Fabrics I went to purchase the appropriate “filler.” What I didn’t realize is that I purchased oversized shoulder pads instead of bra inserts.

I’m telling you right now, I looked pretty good—dry.  It was the getting out of the jacuzzi part where my fate was sealed and my secret exposed.  You see the shoulder pads filled up with so much water that when I stood up, my bikini top practically sagged down to my knee caps, and the water came gushing out as if I was stuffed with sponges..which of course, I was.  It was a “memorable” moment.  When I got home I ripped the (still damp) pads out of the suit and immediately gave the ensemble a new “forever home” in my daughter’s drawer.

I’ve never quite understood why I feel so self conscious about the shape of my body. As much as I hate to admit it, it must all boil down to some inner fear of being judged, of being measured against a standard and falling short. I am so envious of people who are completely comfortable in their own skin; women like 64 year old, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad. For a girl like me who has to work up the courage to walk from my beach chair into the ocean, it is almost impossible to imagine swimming from Cuba to Key West..in a bathing suit of course.. on live TV!   Had I raced Ms. Nyad across the Florida straights, she would have been halfway to victory while I was still back at the starting line waiting for the courage to drop my towel!

I guess that’s the difference between me and Diana.  She clearly sees her body as a tool, an instrument to help her reach well defined goals and fulfill lifelong dreams.  And maybe that’s where the answer ultimately lies, not in a better body, but in better dreams…bigger dreams that are so challenging and  so exciting and so all encompassing that there’s no room in the mind to worry about how one looks pursuing them…

So that’s how I’m going to try to approach my life..more like Diana Nyad who is always busy imagining her next adventure. I’m going to stop focusing on the shortcomings of my paintbrush, and concentrate instead on how I want to fill my canvas. 🙂

Read more about Diana Nyad in ‘Kegels and Bagels’ tomorrow.blank canvas